Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, December 14, 2017

An Estate Planning Nightmare: Hopper v. JP Morgan

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-14/dd0be8a3-1732-4d0e-a082-2e97617bd68d.pngMax Hopper served as Senior Vice President of American Airlines, Chief Information Officer of Bank of America, and was chairman of the Sabre Group. The Texas native accumulated an extensive and impressive resume over the course of his working career. His unexpected death due to a stroke in 2010 left his family devastated. To make matters worse, Hopper passed with a $19 million estate and no will. The family, seeking professional help to distribute to the heirs, hired JP Morgan Chase to administer the fortune. Though the bank is usually associated with professionalism and responsibility, this was not quite the experience had by the Hopper family.

The administrators at JP Morgan took incredible amounts of time to release assets, refused to listen to the wishes of Hopper’s heirs, and consistently missed financial deadlines. Hopper’s family eventually took the case to court and succeeded on their claims of breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract. The jury awarded them $4.7 million in compensatory damages along with $5 million in attorney’s fees. More spectacular though was the $4 billion in punitive damages. Prior to the verdict, Mrs. Hopper asked the jury to “send a message loud enough for JPMorgan to hear it all the way to Park Avenue in Manhattan.” They were apparently more than willing to accommodate the request.

Despite this resounding victory for the Hopper family, it is important to note that this process was extremely difficult for all involved. Mrs. Hopper claimed that “surviving stage 4 lymphoma cancer was easier than dealing with this bank and its estate administration.” Though this may be a bit of hyperbole, it highlights the additional stress created when a decedent passes without a will, and the great benefit of properly planning the distribution of an estate prior to death.

See Inna Fershteyn, An Estate Planning Nightmare: Hopper v. JP Morgan, Brooklyn Trust and Will.com, December 2, 2017.

Special thanks to Alexander Evelson for bringing this article to my attention.

December 14, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Intestate Succession, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Disgraced Las Vegas Lawyer Sentenced To the Maximum

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-14/bf632507-6fd2-465c-8bf7-cbd0f748c852.pngRobert Graham, accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients, will now be spending between sixteen and forty years in prison for his crimes. He was charged with three counts of exploitation of an older/vulnerable person and two counts of theft. He was given the maximum possible sentence on each of the individual counts. Judge Kerry Earley, Clark County District Court, was unabashedly frank in her opinion of Graham: "Just tell me Mr. Graham, how can you sleep at night and account for that kind of money?"

See Karen Castro, Disgraced Las Vegas Lawyer Sentenced To the Maximum, Las Vegas Now.com, December 8, 2017.

December 14, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 11, 2017

CLE on Legal Professionalism and Substance Abuse: Overcoming Common Challenges

0000000 CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a conference entitled, Legal Professionalism and Substance Abuse: Overcoming Common Challenges, which will take place on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, at the Hampton Inn & Suites Charlotte-Arrowood in Charlotte, NC. Provided below is a description of the event:

Program Description

Practical Strategies for Upholding Your Impeccable Reputation

A lawyer's task as a facilitator of law and justice is an ancient and noble occupation, and upholding its reputation is the duty of each practicing attorney. This course offers an in-depth analysis of some of the most sensitive problems troubling legal professionals today. Learn practical techniques for their detection and prevention to maintain the highest standard of the profession. Don't risk unintentionally jeopardizing your license - register today!

  • Clarify the current standards of professionalism with our complete review of legal practitioner's obligations to the parties involved in the legal process.
  • What you don't know can hurt you: learn how to confidently identify and avoid conflicts of interest to close the door on potential legal malpractice claims.
  • Take a closer look at the unique nature and responsibilities of the attorney-client relationship.
  • Help break the vicious cycle: assess the personal and societal impact of performance-enhancing drugs and alcohol.

Who Should Attend

This basic-to-intermediate level seminar offers solutions to common legal profession dilemmas and will benefit:

  • Attorneys
  • In-House Counsel

Course Content

  1. An Attorney's Guide to Professionalism
  2. Identifying and Avoiding Conflicts of Interest
  3. Substance Abuse

Continuing Education Credit

Continuing Legal Education – CLE: 3.00 *

* denotes specialty credits

December 11, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

A Man’s Tattoo Left Doctors Debating Whether to Save His Life

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-07/986e7391-6920-482c-b499-f415dc422a33.pngA group of doctors at a Florida hospital were recently faced with an odd set of circumstances. An unidentified 70-year-old patient with serious prior health issues and a high blood alcohol level came in with a tattoo on his chest that read, “Do Not Resuscitate”. At first, the medical team chose to ignore the instructions given the ambiguity of the notation. But, after speaking with the hospital’s ethics consultant, they decided to stop treatment. Fortunately, hospital staff were able to locate the man’s out-of-hospital do not resuscitate order. The patient ultimately died.

See A. J. Willingham, A Man’s Tattoo Left Doctors Debating Whether to Save His Life, CNN, December 2, 2017.

Special thanks to Naomi Cahn (Harold H. Greene Professor of Law, George Washington University School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 7, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How the Elder Law Attorney Can Help the Personal Injury Attorney

NAELA logo bwClients receiving settlements must consider the effect these incoming monies may have on their Medicaid, Medicare, Supplemental Security Income, or Social Security Disability Income. It falls to their attorney to warn these clients of the potential loss of certain benefits. Failure to do so can result in a malpractice claim. Stand-alone special needs trusts (SNTs) and pooled special needs trusts (PSNTs) may be used to preserve these benefits. SNTs may utilize a family or corporate trustee. The drawback to these options is that corporate trustees can be expensive, and family trustees can be incompetent. PSNTs are run by a non-profit organization that usually has extensive experience managing assets in special needs trusts. Because assets are pooled, PSNTs tend to have better investment opportunities along with lower fees. 

See Joanne Marcus & Karen E. Dunivan, How the Elder Law Attorney Can Help the Personal Injury Attorney, NAELA News, 2017.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 5, 2017 in Elder Law, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 4, 2017

Article on Justice Cromwell and Fiduciary Duties: Placing Law into Context

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-04/dc3ea201-a5fd-4700-a2fc-95bd06192634.pngLeonard I. Rotman recently posted an Article entitled, Justice Cromwell and Fiduciary Duties: Placing Law into Context, Wills, Trusts, & Estates Law eJournal (2017). Provided below is an abstract of the Article:

This paper considers the Supreme Court of Canada's judgment in Galambos v. Perez, (2009) SCR 247 and its requirement that fiduciaries undertake fiduciary responsibility, whether expressly or by implication, in the context of ad hoc (as opposed to per se) fiduciary relationships.

December 4, 2017 in Articles, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (0)

A New Uniform Act Guides Clients Dealing With Aging Parents

image from https://s3.amazonaws.com/feather-client-files-aviary-prod-us-east-1/2017-12-04/203777fb-200e-429f-b9ea-2af45829e991.pngThe Uniform Power of Attorney Act, which identifies best practices and sets minimum standards for agents working under powers of attorney, has been adopted (or substantially adopted) by four states in 2017, Texas, Wyoming, North Carolina, and New Hampshire, bringing the total number of enactments to 25. Leon LaBrecque, attorney and financial advisor in Michigan, notes that the “uniform act requires the person appointed power of attorney to keep records and to provide an accounting of those records to other family members who are involved with the elderly parent”. The idea behind the act is to ensure that the agent with a power of attorney is accounting to the possible heirs. This can add additional burdens on children taking care of elderly parents. Kathryn Avery, who takes care of her 93-year-old father, said that she is now “required to account for every single dime and to justify every expense”.

See Juliette Fairley, A New Uniform Act Guides Clients Dealing With Aging Parents, Financial Advisor, December 1, 2017.

Special thanks to Joel C. Dobris (Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law) for bringing this article to my attention.

December 4, 2017 in Current Events, Disability Planning - Property Management, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

ACTEC 2017 Fall Meeting Musings

LogoSteve Akers wrote a summary of his observations while attending the 2017 ACTEC Fall Meeting. Provided below is his introduction to the material:

Some of my observations from the 2017 ACTEC Fall Meeting Seminars in Nashville, Tennessee on October 20-21, 2017 are summarized below. (At the request of ACTEC, the summary does not include any discussions at Committee meetings.) This summary does not contain all of the excellent information from the seminars, but merely selected issues. The summary is based on the presentations at the seminars, but the specific speakers making particular comments typically are not identified.

Special thanks to Scott M. Deke for bringing this information to my attention.

November 22, 2017 in Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Technology, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

CLE on Tax Strategies for Estate, Retirement and Financial Planning

0000000 CLEThe National Business Institute is holding a conference entitled, Tax Strategies for Estate, Retirement and Financial Planning, which will take place on Thursday, November 16, 2017, at the Best Western Plus North Haven Hotel in North Haven, CT. Provided below is a description of the event:

Program Description

Effective Tax Strategies for Trusts, Estates and Individuals

Expand your arsenal of tax planning tools with the latest and most effective techniques! Experienced faculty will guide you through basis enhancing strategies, asset protection mechanisms, recent tax planning trends, regulatory updates and more in this comprehensive seminar. Protect your clients from undue tax burdens from cradle to grave - register today!

  • Gain practical wealth transfer techniques to minimize both estate and income tax liabilities.
  • Protect your clients from tax penalties and attacks.
  • Make the best use of partnerships and LLCs and comply with the latest rules governing them.
  • Find charitable solutions to top estate planning problems.
  • Maximize your clients' retirement assets and get tools for their tax-efficient transfer to beneficiaries.
  • Clarify how rules of professional conduct are applied in tax practice.

Who Should Attend

This basic-to-intermediate level seminar is designed for:

  • Attorneys
  • Accountants and CPAs
  • Financial Planners
  • Trust Officers
  • Tax Professionals
  • Paralegals

Course Content

  1. Top Lifetime Transfer Strategies to Reduce Taxes
  2. Valuation of Assets: How to Protect Clients from Tax Penalties
  3. Using LLCs and Partnerships (Pass-Through Entities) to Your Client's Advantage
  4. Tax Strategies in Retirement Planning
  5. Defensive Wealth Planning Techniques - Protecting Against Creditors and the IRS
  6. Tax Regulatory Update
  7. Trusts: Top Designs for Tax Reduction
  8. Legal Ethics in Tax Practice
  9. Charitable Giving as a Tax Tool
  10. Cross-Border Tax Issues Every Estate Planner Needs to Know

Continuing Education Credit

Continuing Legal Education – CLE: 6.50 *

Financial Planners – Financial Planners: 8.00

International Association for Continuing Education Training – IACET: 0.70

National Association of State Boards of Accountancy – CPE for Accountants/NASBA: 8.00 *

* denotes specialty credits

November 14, 2017 in Conferences & CLE, Estate Planning - Generally, Income Tax, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Charlottesville Businessman Gets 7 Years for Defrauding Best Friend’s Widow out of $3.2 Million

442311-mad-dog-mccree-windows-screenshot-the-sheriff-in-his-own-jailA judge sentenced Victor M. Dandridge III, 53, to 7 years in prison last Thursday. Dandridge was accused of defrauding his best friend’s widow out of $3.2 million. After his best friend, Carr Lanier “Trey” Kinder III, passed away in 2005, Dandridge offered Lynne Kinder his services in handling the estate and managing her finances. Instead of prudently investing Kinder’s assets, Dandridge placed money in his own failing business ventures. Though he claimed he always intended to pay the widow back, the judge was not buying any of it: “You just continued to lie to her repeatedly,” the judge criticized as he pointed out that Dandridge had also stolen money from his fraternity and his bank.

See Frank Green, Charlottesville Businessman Gets 7 Years for Defrauding Best Friend’s Widow out of $3.2 Million, Richmond Times-Dispatch, November 9, 2017.

Special thanks to Deborah G. Matthews for bringing this article to my attention.

November 13, 2017 in Current Events, Estate Administration, Estate Planning - Generally, Professional Responsibility, Trusts | Permalink | Comments (0)